Does Snacking Actually Promote Fat Storage?
- Mel’s weekly food pick: Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- Mel’s weekly recipe pick: Raw Vinaigrette Dressing
“If we were meant to ‘graze’, we would be cows”
– Dr. Jason Fung, MD
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I used to suggest what many health professionals are still advising the public to do today: to increase your metabolism and burn unwanted body fat, you should eat every three hours.
It turns out this advice actually supports fat storage, not fat loss.
Yeah, I know… shocking, right?! And who do you think is responsible for pushing this message out to us eager beavers who want nothing more than to get lean and healthy? Yep, you guessed it– big food companies.
That in itself should piss you off.
Companies whose “bread and butter” consist of nutritionally-void foods such as chips, cookies, candy bars and the like, are largely to blame for this recommendation. And to top it off, goodhearted-yet-naive health professionals like myself, freely dispensed the advice like a rigged gumball machine.
Snacking and fat storage: it comes down to insulin
To understand why the practice of grazing supports the storage of body fat, it’s necessary to understand the hormone insulin.
Dr. Jason Fung, Canadian nephrologist and leading expert on intermittent fasting, explains the role of insulin this way:
Insulin is a hormone produced when we eat and its job is to allow glucose into the cells. When it is no longer able to do it, glucose piles up outside the cell in the blood—this is called insulin resistance.
But why does this happen? The cells are already over-filled with glucose. It’s like packing your clothes into a suitcase. At first, the clothes go without any trouble. After a certain point, it’s impossible to jam in those last two T-shirts. The luggage is now ‘resistant’ to the clothes. It’s the same overflow phenomenon. The cell is bursting with glucose, so trying to force more in is difficult and requires much higher doses of insulin. These higher insulin levels drive weight gain and obesity.
So what does this have to do with snacking? Increased snacking increases the risk of insulin resistance, which essentially requires two things:
- High levels of insulin—triggered by the refined carbohydrates found in typical snacks.
- Persistent levels of insulin—provided by increased eating opportunities (snacking in between meals).
So instead of a balance between the insulin-dominant (fed) state and the insulin-deficient (fasting) state, we now predominantly spend our time in the ‘fed’ state. The result? Weight gain and fat storage.
So what’s the solution?
Heed grandma’s advice: “Don’t snack in between meals!”
Big food companies are concerned with making money; grandma was instinctively looking out for your well-being. Maybe she was onto something with her advice.
Think about it for a second, you go out to dinner and order an “appetizer”. Have you ever looked up the true meaning of the word appetizer?
ap·pe·tiz·er: a small dish of food or a drink taken before a meal or the main course of a meal to stimulate one’s appetite.
Yes, eating stimulates your appetite, and when you snack between meals, it’s like eating an appetizer but then deliberately stopping before you are actually satisfied. This won’t decrease your appetite, it’ll only stoke it!
I don’t know about you, but I’m going with grandma on this one.
Hunger becomes more recognizable…a good thing indeed!
If you are an avid snacker, this may seem like a difficult habit to form, trust me I’ve been there. It took me quite a while to get used to not snacking between meals, but once I stopped and took a step back to examine why I was doing it, I realized it wasn’t due to hunger at all. I simply formed a habit… a bad one at that!
Another thing I noticed was that my body became much more sensitive to true hunger. I don’t know why, but we tend to think of hunger as a bad thing. Consider this: Never allowing your body to become hungry makes it very difficult to differentiate between true, biological hunger (i.e. slight grumbling of the stomach) and emotional hunger, or eating ‘just because’.
How to make this work for you
Want to give this a try for yourself and see how your body responds? Take a few minutes to map out the timing of your meals. For example: breakfast at 8:00; lunch at 1:00; dinner at 6:00. To help activate a fasting (insulin-deficient) state, make dinner your final eating occasion for the day and allow for a minimum 12-hour fast between dinner and breakfast. For more information on the topic of intermittent fasting, read this post. PS: I highly recommend that you do.
Of course it matters what you eat– but I don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole in this post. To learn more about how to form a balanced meal, read this post.
Use good old fashioned common sense
So if you’ve been struggling to shed those extra pounds that aren’t serving you, stop blaming yourself for lacking willpower and give this a shot! The beauty of this approach is that it’s based on common sense—something I feel the diet and “snacking” industries have unfortunately tried to rob us of.
Get in the driver’s seat of your body and call the shots…what do you have to lose (other than those stubborn pounds)?
**Want to take a deeper dive into this subject? Check out this episode of the JJ Virgin Lifestyle Show featuring Dr. Fung.
NOTE: If you are on insulin, diabetes medication, or any other prescription drug, please consult with your healthcare provider before implementing any suggestions in this post.
Mel’s weekly food pick:
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
This is a staple everyone should have in their kitchen. I wrote about it well over a year ago, but I think it deserves another mention.
Because it is fermented, raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a rich source of enzymes and probiotics. My favorite brand is Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar because it’s organic, raw, unfiltered, and contains “The Mother”—which at first scared the living daylights out of me, until I learned what it was. “The Mother” is a mass of web-like strands of good bacteria floating about in the bottle, which helps promote gut health.
Because it slows the rate that food leaves the stomach, ACV can lower blood sugar when taken before a meal. It can also improve insulin sensitivity. For these reasons, I drink 1-2 tablespoons of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in 8 ounces of hot water twice a day—once before breakfast and the other as I’m preparing dinner. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but once you get used to it, it’s actually quite enjoyable! Note: If you decide to sip on ACV as a beverage, ALWAYS dilute it with water.
Some other notable benefits of raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar include:
- Support for a healthy heart
- Improved cholesterol (decrease in LDL)
- Reduced blood pressure
- Strengthened immune system
The easiest way to incorporate raw ACV into your daily meals is to make a dressing out of it and drizzle over a beautiful plate of salad greens! Check out this week’s recipe pick below for Raw Vinaigrette Dressing.
Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Raw Vinaigrette Dressing